The Broken Line, 40: Protect the Baby


The Broken Line Chapt 40(Missed the last chapter? Go to 39: The Big Sleep)

I WOKE MYSELF with a sob so wrenching it sent a pain through my chest.

The space on the couch where John had been sitting was empty. The lights were off. Just a crazy dream, I told myself. But I felt like the woman in the dream. Like I’d ruined everything. Betrayed everyone.

Protect the baby! Dorothy’s tortured lament came back to me. Of course, that could have been what gave rise to the child in the dream—either that, or the part of me that still grieved my own past. Textbook psychology. All the other pieces, when teased out, made sense, too. John’s comment earlier that I was drinking too much had turned me into a raging alcoholic; memories of the childhood party at Dorothy and John’s house became a party here. John and I sharing this house became a marriage. But still, I couldn’t shake my feelings of terror, guilt and grief.

I shoved the blanket off and stood up too fast. I swayed and rammed my leg on the edge of the side table, cursing under my breath.

“You’re up.”

I started violently. “Jesus! You scared me.”

John sat silhouetted in the light from the hall. The combination of horror movie lighting and my dream hangover made him look sinister.

I wanted to flee but was unable to convince my body to move any closer to the doorway. For several long moments, John didn’t move or speak either.

“What?” I said finally, almost shouting.

“You’re … terrified,” John murmured, his voice husky with emotion. “I’ve never seen you this afraid, not since….”

Not since my mother convinced me you were a demon. It made no sense. An hour ago I was curled up on the couch with him, as contented as a kitten—but once again logic failed to break through my see-sawing emotions. “Turn on the light!”

“I can’t see anything,” John said. “My eyes ….”

“Of course, I’m sorry,” I said, automatically.

I snapped on a lamp and blinked as John rolled into the room.

“It’s only nine o’clock. Let’s make popcorn and watch another movie. How about a screwball comedy? I think noir is giving you nightmares.”

“Um, no thanks. I can’t.” I edged toward the door.

“Can’t or won’t?” John gave me his patented offended stare, guaranteed to induce guilt.

“What’s the difference?” Annoyed now, I turned to go.

“I hope you’re not going out drinking again.”

I paused in the doorway. I’d been planning to go to bed, but his paternal tone pissed me off. “I’m a grown woman, John.”

As I stomped up the stairs, John called out, “I’m only trying to help you, Lacy. But you make it very hard, sometimes.”

As I rounded the top of the stairs, my cell phone rang twice and then stopped. I walked down the hall to check it. Five missed calls, all from Unavailable. I had a sinking feeling that meant Kat.

Sure enough, when I listened to my voice mails, they were all from her. It started with “Hi, how are you,” progressed to, “I know something is going on,” and ended with ranting about how John wanted me. Simmering with anxiety, I deleted the last message before I’d even heard the whole thing.

I was going out for a drink after all.

I threw on some clothes, washed my face, and swiped a brush through my hair. Good enough. I was just going to Bee’s, which was practically like my own living room, except with more people and a better selection of drinks.

I left the house on a cloud of remonstrations from John. “Lacy, come back here. We need to talk. You’re only hurting yourself.” We were going to have a talk—nip that shit in the bud. But not until I was feeling stronger.

For the moment, all I wanted was a couple of drinks, some uncomplicated bar banter with uncomplicated people. Of course, being both a psycho myself and a flashing red psycho magnet, I should have known that “uncomplicated” was way out of my reach.

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